Marijuana could be removed from Ill. firefighter drug testing requirements

The firefighters’ union pushed for the exemption in recent contract negotiations


By FireRescue1 staff

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — If ratified, a contract between Springfield, Illinois, and its firefighters’ union would remove marijuana from firefighter drug screenings.

The firefighters’ union pushed for the exemption during contract negotiations, city officials said.

A contract between Springfield, Illinois, and its firefighters’ union could soon remove marijuana from firefighter drug screenings.
A contract between Springfield, Illinois, and its firefighters’ union could soon remove marijuana from firefighter drug screenings.

Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin voiced his concern over the contract: “It's a real dangerous precedent,” he said. “I think we need a complete no-tolerance rule, because marijuana usage is incompatible with the types of duties that are performed by first responders.”

Marijuana testing has already been lifted as a requirement for employees in other areas of the city, reported WICS/WRSP: “This provision was also passed in the contract for AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] members, but there are some exceptions. Any employee who holds a Commercial Driver's License with the city will still be tested for marijuana, a requirement that complies with existing law. These include people who do things like drive plows, trucks, and more. Outside of that, other city employees will still be tested for marijuana.”

Firefighters in Illinois do not have to have Commercial Driver's Licenses to operate fire department apparatus.

Jim Zerkle, corporation counsel for the city, clarified that state law prohibits the city from firing an employee for using marijuana during off-duty hours, but “it also prohibits any kind of ingestion 36 hours in advance of any work time.” [Read an excerpt from the Illinois statute here.] Zerkle added that there are policies and procedures in place if workers are found to be under the influence on the job.

Chief Brandon Blough said between five and eight firefighters are randomly selected for drug testing, usually about six times per year.

"We, as a fire department, we have full confidence in our workforce that it's not gonna be something that we have to worry about on a large basis," he said.

The city council is expected to discuss the firefighters’ contract again next week.

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